Telling the history of Australians serving in our defence forces through our veterans’ experiences.
Tony Ey (Royal Australian Navy), Navy Clearance Diver
Tony Ey served as a Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver in Vietnam. Like many Australian units, his was integrated closely with the Americans.
2 min 16 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs
The Clearance Diving Branch is the Special Forces unit of the Royal Australian Navy. In Vietnam, the diving teams served with American forces. Tony Ey was in Da Nang.
"When we arrived we were issued with American camouflage uniforms, American weapons. We had American vehicles, American boats, we ate American food.
After we arrived the Americans realised that we had probably a greater capability than the American-trained, bomb disposal types. So they started to use us throughout the length and breadth of what they called I Corps, which was Military Region 1, in the north.
Their major role was in harbour defence, to protect shipping against underwater attack from VC, Viet Cong sapper swimmers.
On board the vessel it's not so bad but when you get underwater and search the hull, the visibility is zero, the water is dirty.
Quite often it's the middle of the night, a torch isn't going to do you much good anyway so, you have no choice but to use the ten eyes on the end of each finger and that's the way we were taught. You just feel. So you progressively search the ship the best way you can.
You're virtually on your own, you're isolated. You can't see anybody. You're in the water and you're below this ship and you're thinking that above you is thousands of tons of high explosives that may detonate at any second.
I know from the Second World War my father, they came home as heroes and they were made welcome everywhere they went. They were bought beers in the pub but we came home and we didn't talk about Vietnam. And to this day there's not a day goes by that I don't think about Vietnam.
It is so much a part of you that you can never ever, ever shake it and I think the main reason for that is the way we were treated when we came home. We were second class citizens and we thought we had done a great job. We were very proud of what we did.
We did our best and we came home to a pretty bad reception. The American experience was probably worse than ours I think but yeah it's something that stays with you for life."
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